CHICAGO, NOV. 14 -- First the box. Now the burger?
McDonald's Corp., which is discarding its plastic foam cartons to please environmentalists, said today it is testing a low-fat hamburger to please waistlines.
One nutritionist hailed the announcement as an apparent breakthrough in the fight against fast-food fat.
The new quarter-pound hamburger is 91 percent fat-free and weighs in with 310 calories and 10 grams of fat, including the bun, ketchup, mustard, pickle, onion, lettuce and tomato.
Dubbed the Lean Deluxe, it will be aimed at health-conscious consumers who love the taste of beef but want to cut down on fat, the company said.
The low-fat meat beef was developed at Auburn University under research sponsored by the Beef Industry Council of the National Livestock and Meat Board. While some aspects of the actual McDonald's hamburger are proprietary, it basically involves the use of lean meat with carrageenan -- a seaweed derivative -- added to put back the moisture that fat normally provides.
Dale Huffman, an Auburn researcher who helped develop the product, said the result is a lean ground beef with not much more fat than what could be made from lean cuts of sirloin, round steak or chuck, which can have as little as 8 percent fat.
The sandwich is being tested at McDonald's outlets in Harrisburg, Pa. The company said consumer reaction, while hard to gauge, seems to be favorable but no decision will be made on expanding the test market or going forward with the sandwich as a regular product until next year.
"Our hamburgers are already classified 'lean' by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but when it comes to our ... sandwiches, we're never satisfied," said Ed Rensi, president of McDonald's USA.
Bonnie Liebman, a nutritionist with the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Reuter that McDonald's current quarter pounder has 410 calories and 20.7 grams of fat, including bun and dressings. "My guess is that this patty has about half as much fat as the previous one," she said.
"If that's true, this is a major breakthrough because people will still be able to get their hamburger but cut down on the fat. I don't know how they did it -- you could reach this fat content if you took round steak and cut off all the fat, but I don't know what they did," she said.
"It doesn't mean you can stop worrying about fat," she added. "You still have to watch out for the French fries, the fried apple pies, the cheese, the dressing on your salad."
Phil Sokolof of Omaha, Neb., who has conducted a one-man campaign against fat in the form of newspaper ads criticizing McDonald's and others, said the new hamburger would seem to be "a great product. If they come to market with it it could be great."
But he said test products sometimes take years to develop. Phil Sokolof of Omaha who has criticized McDonald's and others in newspaper ads in his one-man campaign against fat, said the new hamburger would seem to be "a great product. If they come to market with it it could be great."
But he said test products sometimes take years to develop.